If you had to drive your Mk7 1000+ miles on gravel/dirt...


New member
Oregon, USA
2017 GTI
Hey all, new to this forum and this is my first post!

I have a 2017 GTI S (mostly stock, 39k miles) and I have spent the last year outfitting it for car camping (yes, it's possible to sleep two people comfortably in a GTI, but that's another topic). The plan is to take the car on a 3 week trip from Oregon up to the Arctic, driving up the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk in the NWT, then heading back south with a detour into Alaska in August 2022.
As much as everybody says that doing the Dempster without 4WD is not possible, given due care and solid preparation it's certainly doable. The majority of the highway is shown in Google Street View, and they captured imagery with small Chevy sedans that seemed to make the trek with no issue. Plus the locals drive it with 2WD cars routinely. From extensive research on Street View, it doesn't look to be very rocky or potholed, just a bit muddy in sections following heavy rain. I included a couple typical photos from Street View as a reference.
The main takeaway is this: out of the 6000+ mile journey, nearly 1/4 of it will be on decently-maintained gravel roads. And I'm no stranger to driving the GTI on awful forest roads, it's been to trailheads in the Cascades up roads where it certainly doesn't belong. My biggest concern is having enough mud traction off the ferry landings, and then the low sidewall height with the stock tire/wheel combination being a liability on short sections of rocks or potholes. I also don't plan on driving FAST on the gravel stretches of road.

I just got a new set of Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 Plus tires on the stock 18" rims, retiring the Pirelli P7s that I drove it off the lot with. These tires will have plenty of treadlife left in them, and they have '2-ply reinforced sidewalls', and I would prefer to just use these tires for the trip (especially for the 75% on pavement). I also plan on taking a full size spare in addition to the donut, as well as a better jack and tire-changing equipment than comes standard.

So here are my questions:

1. Should I be confident in taking my current wheel/tire combination on a trip like this?
2. Would you consider downsizing to a 17" (or 16" since it's an S) with new tires just to take advantage of a slightly taller sidewall? (If downsizing, I would want steelies or cheap rims and some kind of winter tire, maybe something like the Firestone Weathergrip that is a decent all-weather tire with the 3PMSF.)
3. Airing down... how much?
4. Any suspension mods recommended?

And any other tips/ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!


Passed Driver's Ed
Bay Area
2017 GTI SE
Sounds like an amazing adventure. My advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I’d definitely go with a smaller rim / higher sidewall combo for comfort and noise mitigation. Mud flaps would be an asset for sure.


Ready to race!
Golf Sportwagen 4Mo
The Alltrack guys love the lift kits if you're really wanting to go that route, I'd definitely say go to a smaller rim. Me personally, my #1 mod would be an Alltrack skid plate but I'm overly cautious.


Autocross Champion
Scotland (U.K.)
Mk7 Golf GT Estate
Go for the tallest sidewall you can fit to a strong load rated alloy or steel rim.

The full reinforced skid tray, the front exhaust tunnel cover, the rear exhaust tunnel cover, the short rear axle cover, & the lower arm stone covers for the rear suspension, tiguan subframe cover...basically the first few post in these threads:-

How to retro-fit skid trays, aerodynamic under trays, & stone guards to a MK7 Golf | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

How to retro-fit the Mk8 rear suspension aero covers or stone guards to a Mk7 Golf. | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

How to retro-fit the front subframe cover from the VW Tiguan (2016->) | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

I'd also recommend fitting a fire extinguisher to the front seat (remove the drawer)...thread here:-

How to retro-fit the fire extinguisher to a Mk7 Golf | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

& a big AGM battery here:-

How to retro-fit a bigger capacity battery to a Mk7 Golf | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

Also check your lights as its DARK in the middle of nowhere & if you get a big truck driving at you full lights on, you can't see the road edge....

If you have xenons maybe fit higher K bulbs or you might need additional driving lights here:-

Lazerlamps bumper mount kit for MK7.5 Golf | GOLFMK7 - VW GTI MKVII Forum / VW Golf R Forum / VW Golf MKVII Forum

Also get either a bonnet bra or clear PPF film for the front of the car & the drivers side at least!!
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Go Kart Newbie
Left coast
2017 Alltrack S 6MT
+1 to all that Dave suggests, good idea on the full-size spare, 16" steelies with as much oem plus sidewall you can stuff in the fenders without rubs.

here's a couple thoughts, (as I've been slowly upgrading preparing for a similar adventure, delayed for a different mission down south but may wrap up with an Alcan run north...with a teardrop in tow...)

1.bring a basic recovery kit: an extra/better jack than OEM scissors, some soft shackles and a jerk strap, 12v air pump, sturdy short shovel, hatchet to cut brush to pad the jack, pack under tires to drive out on baja style.

2. See Jamie at ECS' youtube on driving to Chile. You can do a LOT with a skid plate/tunnel kit.

Ask Arno at B2BFAB about the guy in a mk6 that Smith VW setup for a trip to AK a few years back - he only bottomed out with two 200# hitchhikers plus packs in pack...

3. lights: See Forge's hood or grill mounts for heavy Hella LEDs, or Uniwerks grill clips for lighter slimline Hellas halogens, if you wanna add light.

4. Tires See youtubes or 4x4 forums on airing down- Matts OffRoad rescue in Moab is pretty based-his view: there's no one size fits all number-depends on tire and wheels so you should just experiment on how low you can go before you roll the bead.

5. Duck tape for body panels torn loose, Gorilla clear tape for busted headlights, baling wire, jb weld, metal foil to fix muffler holes,

6. Get one of those "fix your own chip in windshield" glue injection kits, so you can stop them frim becoming traveling cracks.

Sounds like a great trip send pics!


New member
Oregon, USA
2017 GTI
Thanks for all of the information!

Based on responses, I am leaning toward getting 4 Firestone Weathergrip tires on 16 steelies (215/55R16). This will give me 34% more sidewall than what I currently have, and the tires will be decent to just throw on for upcoming winters, as well. They are a slightly larger diameter and will still fit without rubbing... I don't know that I want to bump that diameter up much further. I'll take one of my current tires/wheels as the full size spare.

I definitely have the OEM mud flaps on the purchase list, and I am certainly planning to take a more substantial recovery kit (jack, compressor, etc.) than standard.

I'm going to keep electrical mods to a minimum, we have enough time planned out that we will not be doing any night driving, plus the daylight up north in summer is 18-20+ hours. As well as suspension, I just want to keep as close to stock as possible.

That's also part of it... anybody can get to the Arctic in an offroad machine, but making it in a (mostly) stock hatchback is the feat. I've taken the car on some VERY bad roads with no issues, roads that make the Dempster look like the Autobahn. It's just the *length* of it that's a bit daunting.